After a narrow 65-62 win over Oregon State last night at Madison Square Garden, Alabama’s backcourt combo of Trevor Releford and Rodney Cooper knew what to expect against Villanova’s young point guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
“We wanted to blitz him because he’s a great guard, so we wanted to limit his open looks,” said Cooper.
Alabama turned up the pressure on Arcidiacono and the rest of the Wildcats, speeding up Villanova’s offense and forcing 14 turnovers in a 77-55 win Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
With the victory, Alabama captures the 2K Sports Classic title.
“I thought we came out and defensively we gave a great effort,” said coach Anthony Grant. “I felt like it was a pretty dominating performance.”
The Crimson Tide led by just three points at halftime, and were tied with Villanova ten second into the second half, but a 13-4 run by Alabama over a six-minute stretch in the middle of the second half grew the lead to 15 points.
The Alabama lead reached its high-water mark with a Trevor Lacey dunk, making it 67-45.
Releford was key to the Alabama offense for the second straight night, tallying 25 points, including 5-of-5 shooting from three-point range. His efforts won him the tournament’s MVP award.
“He did a great job of being aggressive and attacking,” said Grant. “Villanova almost forces you to make a play on every possession. Having his veteran leadership out there I thought was great for our younger guys.”
In a crowded SEC this season, with Kentucky, Florida, and newcomer Missouri likely fighting it out at the top, the Crimson Tide will be battling in the middle of the pack.
What Grant’s team might lack in overall talent and depth, they help to compensate with discipline and a backcourt that is tough to match within the conference.
“I think we have potential to be a good team,” said Grant. “We are definitely a work in progress. We could have lost last night’s game very easily. I think the guys got a lot of heart.”
The Crimson Tide return home to host Charleston Southern on Nov. 23.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_